Afrin’s fall was inevitable, is ethnic cleansing to follow?

The fall of Afrin to the Turkish military and Islamist fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was inevitable, now the question is whether ethnic cleansing of the region will follow, Patrick Cockburn wrote in the Independent.

Videos taken by FSA fighters, an overwhelmingly Arab force, suggest that many are former Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda fighters who see the Kurds and non-Muslim minorities as enemies to be expelled or eradicated, Cockburn said.

“The commanders of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) were evidently convinced that Afrin was indefensible and pulled out because they had no alternative,” he said. “If this was the case, then they were wise not to fight to the finish in a battle they were bound to lose with heavy loss of life.”

Destruction of Kurdish symbols in Afrin is not a good sign for the future. Some Syrian Kurdish leaders fear that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan plans to create a Sunni Arab bloc under Turkish control in northern Syria.

The next crucial question is where does Erdoğan go from here.

He may have got Afrin, but the main Syrian Kurdish zone stretches from the Arab city of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates to the Iraqi border, is still where it was, Cockburn said.

“Here, unlike Afrin, the Kurdish and Kurdish-linked forces are under U.S. protection,” he said. “Very visible patrols of U.S. armoured vehicles patrol the front line around Manbij. It will also be easier for the YPG to fight close to their main territorial bases.”